The contests offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41% of his own MPs cast their ballots against him
Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Tory party suffered a double blow as voters rejected the Conservatives in two crunch by-elections. In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while Labor reclaimed Wakefield.
The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tories, offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41% of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.
In Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish – the Tory MP who had more than 60% of the vote in 2019 – resigned after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.
A dramatic swing of almost 30% from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats saw Richard Foord secure a majority of 6,144. The new Lib Dem MP used his acceptance speech to call for Mr Johnson “to go, and go now”, claiming his victory had “sent a shockwave through British politics”.
Mr Foord said: “The people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for Britain. They sent a loud and clear message – it’s time for Boris Johnson to go, and go now.”
He said that “every day Boris Johnson clings to office he brings further shame, chaos and neglect”. In a message to the Prime Minister, Mr Foord, a former army major, said: “I can tell you that leadership means acting with decency and integrity.
“It means keeping your word. It means setting an example and putting other people’s needs before your own. I served alongside friends who personified these values, and laid down their lives in service of their country. And yet your behavior Mr Johnson, makes a mockery of leadership. By any measure, you are unfit to lead. ”
The Liberal Democrats said Mr Foord had overturned the biggest majority in by-election history. It was the sixth biggest swing against a government since 1945 in by-elections where both the seat and incumbent changed hands.
In Wakefield, Simon Lightwood was elected with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7% from the Tories to Labour. The previous Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan quit after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy – a crime for which he was jailed for 18 months.
Wakefield was one of the so-called red wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being Labor since the 1930s.
Mr Lightwood said: “The people of Wakefield have spoken on behalf of the British people. They have said, unreservedly: Boris Johnson, your contempt for this country is no longer tolerated.”
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Wakefield has shown the country has lost confidence in the Tours. This result is a clear judgment on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas.
“Britain deserves better. Wakefield has voted Labor because we have the solutions for the challenges facing the British people. The Labor Party is back on the side of working people, winning seats where we lost before, and ready for government.”
Mr Johnson, who is at a Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Rwanda, suggested it would be “crazy” for him to quit if the party lost the two seats and said mid-term by-elections were “never necessarily easy for any government”.
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